theWonderCow, February 10, 2017

America to Shanghai: Breaking Down DAC's Americas Qualifiers

Many of my colleagues have applauded Thusday's B)ears vs Liquid as the best series so far this year, but DAC has the promise to bring us even better matches as its qualifiers push forward. Only a single American team will join the region's standard bearer, EG, in Shanghai, but the games will be our first glimpse of 7.02 in professional Dota.

That patch is going to force us to reconsider what we expected from these games, which already had the potential to be the best of the month. Hopefully it'll give us some more exciting matches to place our Dota 2 bets on. Here's what you'll need to know before going into these series later today.

Complexity

Compexity at the Boston Major
CompLexity preparing to play at The Boston Major

CompLexity has been hit-or-miss for some time, finding patches of success since bringing on Moo (formerly Digital Chaos) and Cancel after The International 2016. The most notable patch was when they upset EG and put themselves into a seemingly favorable position during the Boston Major group stages, a performance which likely would have led to a top ten finish if the event had been double-elimination. Instead, they faltered on the main stage and tied for last.

Their recent performances with new addition MonkeysForever have been impressive. Moo's GPM has risen 40% since 7.00 was released compared to 6.88F, and the team's KDA is steeply on the rise across the board.

Those comparisons are imperfect, particularly because many of their matches at the end of last year were against the world's best teams while their current matches have been fewer and largely against lower-caliber teams. However, CompLexity won or tied every match they've played since Boston, including those against their region's top competition DC and Team NP.

This will be the first opportunity for them to definitively win (or lose) against any of their region's remaining teams, as all three have traded even with CompLexity since 7.00's release. Despite this performance spike, CompLexity are likely considered underdogs by community odds against either Team NP or Digital Chaos, but they are the only likely team that could reach Shanghai without needing to beat Digital Chaos.

Team NP

Team NP walk off the Boston stage for the last time
Team NP walk off the Boston stage for the last time

The 7.XX era should, theoretically, immensely help teams which like to play high-risk Dota. The fallback of shrines creates a reduced cost for missed ganks and provided teleportation points even after outer-tier towers were stripped, all of which adds up to team fighting, ganking, and skirmishing as a premium. It was also one of the largest patch changes in Dota history and should benefit teams with theory-minded players.

Team NP fits the bill of such a team. Additionally, they've had a couple months to practice coordination and group execution, a necessary skill which inarguably left them when it mattered most at the Boston Major.

Their play record has been strong, but Team NP has always struggled against their rivals, DC, against whom they've only won a single Captain's Mode game to date. Both teams are among the few to still focus more resources on their carry, while most of the world's teams have shifted for years toward a mid-centric model driven by pubstars-turned-pro such as Arteezy, Suma1l, and Miracle.

That's a style DC is just better at implementing, especially against similar opposition, possibly because DC plays less around the extremes of success and failure. That uncertainty seems to show in NP's drafts, wherein they have yet to play the same hero twice against DC.

It's unfortunate for NP that they face DC first in these upper-brackets. Based on recent performance, it's hard to imagine them beating DC twice, but if NP manage to come out ahead in the first round, it's possibly that the regional favorites would fall before a rematch in the grand finals.

Digital Chaos

Digital Chaos at Boston
Digital Chaos at Boston

Resolution's average GPM on 7.01 was 658. As far as I'm aware, that's the highest average patch GPM for any professional-tier team to date (there was a period where USH and Sna of Sneaky Nyx Assassins achieved similar levels of success, but they did so against mostly middling or unknown teams in mostly amateur-level tournaments).

This team is much more than Resolution, but most of what this team does well shows in that single number. They avoid unnecessary risk, create space, maximize efficiency and minimize unnecessary travel extremely well, creating opportunity in any stage of the game.

If you follow Dota even passively, then you know Digital Chaos come in as a favorite for this tournament qualifier. They've won their last seven consecutive series, and went 18-2 on 7.01. Only Complexity managed to go toe-to-toe with them over that period, and that's likely because of how few games the pair played. Moreover, their first round against Team NP is very favorable based on past results.

7.02 could throw a wrench in this beat; Misery as a captain asks his team for help when thinking about the game, but delegation takes time to adjust. Teams that theorycraft in a more directed and centralized way may have an advantage specifically during this period of transition. The DC vs NP match later today will be wildly important in understanding how each team handles patch uncertainty.

Team Onyx

Although everybody familiar with pro Dota knows CompLexity, Digital Chaos, and Team NP, many of you may be unfamiliar with Onyx. Formed after the Boston Major, Onyx includes famed TI6 SEA star Abed — who followed Demon from Execration to a new home in the Americas — Mason (the stand-in who took TI4 bronze in Fear's place with Evil Geniuses), Dubu (formerly MVP Phoenix), and Bulba, one of North America's most experienced players and coaches.

The team is fresh, relatively unknown, and has seen success in their region. Had this squad been formed two years ago, they'd be leaps ahead of their region's competition. Unfortunately for them, North America has been increasingly independent from Europe.

If Onyx were to reach DAC, it would be an amazing upset which would rewrite the region similar to the way Wings Gaming were able to swing ahead of establishment China this time last year. They had the inarguably easier group stage, and still middle-finished. They've yet to beat Team NP or Digital Chaos in a set, but did manage to tie 1-1 in their only bout against Complexity. Rather than see Onyx as a serious threat this time around, consider this their opportunity to improve looking toward Kiev.

theWonderCow

With years in esports publishing, broadcasting, and analysis, Gorgon's specialized focus on locking down trends in Dota has landed him as a featured writer for joinDOTA, the Score, Dotabuff, and more. You can reach him on twitter.com/theWonderCow.